Zen Practice – A Flexible Mind Is Like Water

December 18, 2012

When we talk about practice, we are talking about adjustment. If we have the ability to adjust our emotions and moods, it means we have flexibility. We can generate a different thought to fit the reality. It is essential to have flexibility.

In Zen practice, there is a saying: “The most wonderful mind is like water.” If you pour water in a cup, it becomes water in a cup. The water in the river is water in the river. If your mind is soft enough, your mind can fit into all kinds of realities without emotion–only joy and happiness. This is a very important idea. No one can help you in regard to a single thought, nor can anyone keep you from generating a thought.  Only you can generate your thoughts. If you do not know how to adjust your thoughts, problems will occur.

Our friends, family members, colleagues only serve as helpers, or facilitators. We are the only persons who can really help ourselves. If you are in a bad mood, even if ten people massage your physical body, you will never show a happy face if you have burdens or a mind filled with worries. And you will not feel happy if you still refuse to put down your emotions. Remember, as long as you generate even a single happy thought, you will show a happy face. One single thought coming from your mind is much stronger, bigger and more useful than anyone else or any outside phenomena. Your one single thought can beat ten people’s arms. How powerful the thought is! Let go of your worries; let go of your wandering thoughts. This is the key to happiness in life.

To adjust is to have flexibility. All thoughts are generated within one’s own mind. We need to learn how to handle our thoughts, otherwise we will not fulfill the pursuit of happiness. We all have different types of worries, since we all have different types of problems. It is because we are human beings. I used to tell students, “If you want to get rid of a human being’s problems, the only way is not to be a human being.” This is the only way. For example, if you were a dog, would you have the problems of a human being? Consider the question of how to get rid of one’s temper, or, in other words how to get rid of angry emotions. Do not allow yourself to become a person who is easily angered. If you continually allow yourself to generate angry thoughts, how can you get rid of angry emotions? It will be impossible! However, when you generate a single happy thought, you will be a different person. You will immediately rid yourself of the angry emotion. This is the way to dissolve the problems in daily life.

People tend to think they have bad luck and that all the troubles come to them. We can easily feel this way, but it is wrong to do so. Each of us is an individual with a mind; a mind that generates  negative thoughts opens similar doors and encounters similar problems. It is not true that the problem comes to us.

So, when I generate angry thoughts, I compel my mind to keep generating them. Do you ask yourself why it is that you get mad so easily? It is because you allow yourself to keep generating angry thoughts. This is the only answer. So, if you do not want to have the problems a human has, do not be a human. You can become a heavenly being instead. When you have all the good thoughts and all the good deeds, you will become a heavenly being despite having the form of a human. When you generate an evil thought, you are doing what a bad person does, but it has nothing to do with whether you are handsome or beautiful. Inside your physical body, if you are generating an evil thought, you are evil. If you are a very ugly person and your mind generates a good thought, you are already a nice person. You are an angel. It has nothing to do with form. People are so easily misled and cheated by form. Our mind and thoughts decide where and who we can be. It has nothing to do with one’s physical form.

Practice must be continuous. It is not as if one goes to the Zen hall and practices for an hour, and then plays for ten hours before coming back to meditate again. We unconsciously cultivate our habits in our daily lives. The more we generate the thought, the more powerful the thought will become. This is a principle that applies to both the positive and negative sides.

Unfortunately, most of the time in daily life we unconsciously cultivate the negative side of our habits. Ten minutes, half an hour or one hour of meditation would have difficulty dissolving what we have accumulated in the course of a day.

How many hours do we need for our stomach to digest a meal? It is similar in the case of meditation. During the day, when we see things, we eat through our eyes; when we hear someone talking, we eat through our ears. We also eat through our feelings. In one day, we eat a lot. We eat tons of food, in this sense. We eat a lot of garbage. How much time is needed to digest it? People ask me, “Master, can I practice from ten minutes?” I reply, “You must practice at least ten minutes.” What can you do in ten minutes? If you do not want to spend time to calm your mind, you will spend more time dealing with the problems caused by a wild mind.

Sometimes, people say they are so busy. Actually they are trying to handle life with a stormy mind. Yes, of course they are busy. But one might have done a lot without achieving good results. Why does this happen? What is the reason? With a calm mind, you will be very productive. In one day, how many thoughts do you have? They are countless! How many thoughts do you need in order to finish your task in your office or at home? About thirty percent of our thought is enough to finish the day’s work. The rest of our thought is wasted. We constantly waste our energy.

Consider, then, that every single thought is energy, and that we alone create that energy. We have a saying: “The human mind is the most inefficient factory in the world.” It is because we constantly turn out products that are semi-finished or defective. However, we still tell people how busy we are. You are busy creating worries, which is different from being productive.